June 2009
Volume 13, Number 1

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Oral Competency of ESL Technical Students in Workplace Internships

Johanne Myles
Queens University, Kingston, Ontario


In recent years, an increasing number of university students in Canada speak a home language other than English, which can put added pressure on the kinds of linguistic, cultural, and academic support they may require in their tertiary education and in the workplace. Indeed, communication difficulties can surface in the workplace for students during internship placements. This article discusses the challenges that ESL engineering students have and the strategies they use to acquire oral competency while on their internship placements. The students in this study participated in a sixteen-month internship in a research and development unit of a software company. Findings reveal that learning technical language was the main priority. However, challenges revolved around conversational aspects of communication that required the ability to use and understand colloquial language, idioms, and slang, as well as to recognize cultural practices in face-to-face and computer-mediated interactions. Pedagogical implications for English for Specific Purposes (ESP) programs are discussed.

Keywords: EFL, ESL, speaking, interns, communication

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